Melbourne's plan to tackle unconscious gender bias sounds silly, but it makes sense.

Gender bias is no joke.

Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, is tackling gender bias with the help of traffic lights — and the plan might not be as wild as it sounds.

On March 7, the city debuted what is presumably the most controversial change to pedestrian traffic signals ever: The standard male (aka pants-wearing) stick figure was replaced with a female stick figure (in a dress), all in the name of gender equality.

Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images.


If it sounds silly, that's because it is — to an extent. Leaving aside the fact that assuming pants = man while dress = woman is a gender stereotype of its own, gender bias takes many forms with some very real-world effects, such as the wage gap, harassment, and just general inequality.

What Melbourne's yearlong experiment aims to explore is whether or not seeing women represented in everyday aspects of our lives where men are viewed as the default — such as with pedestrian signals — can have an effect on unconscious gender biases.

Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Whether it's gender, race, religion, sexuality, or any number of other factors, we're all biased in ways that we aren't aware of.

These are called "unconscious biases," and they fuel countless decisions each of us make each and every day — usually without us even realizing it. This type of bias is the product of culture, society, and lived experience, and it can be really tricky to identify. Google even made a really cool video identifying how unconscious bias plays into their interview and evaluation process to show how we can unlearn some of those biases.

Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Luckily, there's a way to identify and address this type of bias, and it's easier than you might think.

Harvard professor Mahzarin Banaji developed a test you can take to understand your own biases. And while you might be shocked by the results, remember that it's not a judgment of who you are as a person, it's the first step in becoming a more aware and unbiased individual.

In a 2015 blog post, bias expert Janet Crawford offered up some helpful steps to reduce your own biases in three simple steps: (1) build awareness through observation, (2) use whatever power you have to correct bias when you see it and improve representation, and (3) look for ways you can improve overall culture (whether it's company culture, societal, or something else). She also has a really great talk on the neuroscience of gender bias that's worth a watch.

Photo by ​Stefan Postles/Getty Images.

Will putting skirts on pedestrian traffic signals for a year eliminate gender bias? Of course not. But it does help start an important conversation that society needs to have.

So if you have a moment, go on and take some of the Harvard bias tests. You might be surprised with what you find out.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

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Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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